Counter Fraud Authority launched to combat £1bn costs

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (CFA) launches today as the Department of Health attempts to combat fraud in the health service which costs the NHS £1bn a year.

The new body will operate as a special health authority working directly under the DH and will attempt to reduce the number of fraudulent claims being made across the NHS.

It will be the responsibility of the CFA to encourage the reporting of potential fraud across NHS services as well as provide a centralised body to counter complex economic crime in the NHS.

The two biggest issues which the new organisation will look to tackle are payroll fraud by NHS staff and wrongful claims from patients to exemptions.

It is estimated that direct payroll fraud – billing for uncompleted hours or services – is one of the major NHS related crimes, while specific claims from dental staff also cost the system heavily.

Sue Frith, former managing director of the CFA’s predecessor NHS Protect, will lead the organisation as interim chief executive from today’s launch.

She explained the purpose of the new body: “As a new, independent, intelligence-led special health authority, we are dedicated to tackling fraud against the health service in England.

“Our creation is good news for the taxpayer, for patients and for the honest majority working in and with the health service.

“I am proud to be leading the new NHS Counter Fraud Authority as we embark on this fight against the fraudsters who target the NHS. I am working alongside our board and all of our dedicated staff. We are delighted to have full backing across the government, the wider NHS and many other key stakeholders.”

The CFA will also be responsible for analysing data across the NHS in order to find fraudulent activity that has not been reported.

And health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy added: “Fraud in the healthcare system not only undermines public confidence in the NHS but also diverts valuable resources away from caring for patients - it is estimated that prescription fraud alone costs the NHS £217m each year.

“We created the NHS Counter Fraud Authority so that for the first time there is a dedicated NHS organisation to tackle health service fraud and corruption and bring fraudsters to justice.”

Simon Hughes, interim chair of CFA, said some fraud was going under-reported simply because of a lack of awareness and knowledge about what constituted a crime.

“Every fraud takes a service away from someone that needs it,” he stated. “This reality must be faced. We can all play our part in turning the tide, ensuring public money pays for services the public needs and doesn't line the pockets of criminals.

“We all use the NHS and will all benefit from securing its resources. Simply reporting your concerns is a powerful action to protect healthcare.

“Establishing the NHS Counter Fraud Authority strengthens our resolve in fighting fraud, bribery and corruption, protecting healthcare and supporting the many thousands of dedicated heath staff, suppliers and contractors.”

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